All posts by riaanvanwyk

Converting my house into a smart home

(Links to all the suppliers below)

Smart home quick demo

Recently I’ve decided to start converting my home into a smart home.  Initially my idea was for a few smart lights to control remotely. I also wanted to clean up some older electrical outlets and change them to newer ones with USB charging built-in.

From this to..
To this ( 2 USB chargers)

While preparing for the installation I realised I could control my old infrared (IR) aircons (TCL) through wi-fi as well, using a wi-fi enabled IR blaster in each room where I have an aircon. 

Small IR blaster to control the old aircons, using 5V USB plug

Being an Apple user, I decided to use Apple Homekit to control the smart house.  I quickly realised that it’s difficult (and in some cases expensive) to find Homekit certified devices and products.  However, Homebridge is an open sourced software that can be used to integrate non-Homekit devices and products into Homekit.  I downloaded and tested the software on my iMac and it worked quite well. The only downside is that the computer it’s running on, should run 24/7 and I did not want to run my iMac as a server 24/7.  To solve this I bought a RaspberryPi, installed HomeBridge on it, and it runs 24/7 without using too much power.  I’ve even found a way to open apps on my PS4.

Raspberry Pi unboxing
Raspberry Pi installed and running

Each device has its own compatible app on your phone and the setting on those services can be accessed by Homebridge to control the devices.  With Homebridge running, I could use non-Homekit devices and still integrate them into Homekit.  

For the lights I decided to use native Homekit certified lights (bypassing Homebridge) and selected the Philips Hue system.  The main reason for this was the fact that each smart bulb does not grab an IP address and runs through the network, but uses the Philips Hue hub instead.  Each hub can support 50 devices and in most cases these will be bulbs, or LED light strips.  You also get compatible motion sensors and light switches.  The Philips Hue system is quite difficult to get in South Africa, but luckily it can be bought directly from Amazon (US) and is compatible on the 220V power used in SA.

Philips Hue bulb
Philips Hue hub
Philips Hue light switch (optional)
Philips hue motion sensor

In some rooms I have the long LED (florescent tubes in some cases) tubes light fittings. I did not want to change them to be compatible with Philips bulbs (screw type).  To solve this I replaced the light switch at the wall with sonoff smart wi-fi switch.  I managed to set this up in Homebridge and could then manipulate them using Homebridge. 

Old wall switch
Removing the old switch
New Sonoff Wi-Fi smart switch (neutral wire needed)

With this setup, and integrated in HomeKit, I could easily programme certain automated events.  For example, when the motion sensor in the hallway is triggered at night, certain lights will switch on for 5 minutes. 

For some devices, a smart plug could be used (for example a fan or lamp whose bulb cannot be replaced.). The one I found (Reef Aquatics – seems this is not available anymore as of time of writing) is compatible with South African plugs and no other adaptor is needed (usually smart plugs sold in SA is the EU type).  Again, this plug is not directly compatible with Homekit, but could be controlled through Homebridge.

Because everything is integrated into Apple’s HomeKit, it is compatible with Siri as a voice enabled smart assistant, and all commands can be given through Siri.  However, having Amazon’s Alexa (not supported in SA) on a Kindle fire I decided to test it out and was very impressed with Alexa’s responsiveness.  I’ve decided to start using Alexa to control the devices too. I got 4 Echo Dot (Gen 3) smart speakers for different rooms in the house.  The bonus feature was that I now have smart speakers around the house to stream music, news and audio books. 

Amazon Echo dot 2 (gen 3 – Sandstone)
Amazon Echo dot 2 (gen 3 – Charcoal)
Amazon Echo dot 2 (gen 3 – heather grey)

Shopping links:

Philips hue system and lights:

Philips Hue 471986 A White Ambiance A19 60W Equivalent Smart Bulb Starter Kit (Compatible with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and Google Assistant). Learn more: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07353SKDD/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_A6I-Cb2J0DT6T

Philips Hue 464487 Hue White and Color Ambiance A19 60W Equivalent Dimmable LED Smart Bulb Compatible with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and Google Assistant. Learn more: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M9AU8MB/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_a8I-CbTNMMZ7M

Philips Hue 473371 Home Hue Smart Dimmer Switch With Remote, 1, White. Learn more: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B076MGKTGS/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_M8I-CbNVY8TYB

Philips Hue 473389 Philips Motion Sensor Lights (Installation-Free, Home, Exclusively Smart Bulbs), White. Learn more: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B076MGK22M/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_g9I-CbJ6SS8N8

Wi-Fi infrared blasters:

Broadlink RM Mini 3 Smart Home Wifi Universal Remote Control\n\nhttps://www.takealot.com/broadlink-rm-mini-3-smart-home-wifi-universal-remote-control/PLID53025616

Sonoff light switches:

Sonoff Smart Wifi RF Light Switch 1  Gang\n\nhttps://www.takealot.com/sonoff-smart-wifi-rf-light-switch-1-gang/PLID52859863

Sonoff Smart Wifi RF Light Switch 2 Gang\n\nhttps://www.takealot.com/sonoff-smart-wifi-rf-light-switch-2-gang/PLID52859864

Sonoff Smart Wifi RF Light Switch 3 Gang\n\nhttps://www.takealot.com/sonoff-smart-wifi-rf-light-switch-3-gang/PLID52859865

Rasberry Pi

https://www.pishop.co.za/store/index.php?rt=product/product&product_id=1283

Amazon Echo dot 2 (gen3) (Alexa)

https://www.bidorbuy.co.za/item/379357012/_FREE_SHIPPING_IN_STOCK_Amazon_Echo_Dot_3rd_Gen_Smart_speaker_with_Alexa_Charcoal.html


 [CSW1]Produknaam?

My shared Apple playlists

Some of my shared Apple playlist:

 

 

Using excel to manage a class list and calculate test and exam marks

Video 1: How to freeze headers and sort data.

Video 2: How to calculate and display percentages in excel

Video 3: How to use the average and countif functions in excel

Video 4: How to filter data in an excel sheet

Video 5: Using the sum function to calculate totals in excel

Video 6: How to merge data (concatenate function) and hide columns in excel

Setting up Instagram activity status on iPhone / IOS

Add text overlay to a picture directly in Word

A short video explaining how to easily add text onto a picture in your Word document.

Kegging and carbonating the Oktoberfest lager

3 weeks ago I posted on the Oktoberfest lager I brewed from the Morgan’s kits. (click here for the post).

This weekend the beer was ready to keg.  To start I tested the gravity  of the brew and once it was stable over 2 days I moved it to a sterilized bottling bucket and added some finings.  This help to increase the final clarity of the beer.

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I kept in the bottling bucket for 3 days and then prepared my keg.

After cleaning the keg, I sterilize it.  During this process I also remove the beer tap and ball-lock disconnect and properly clean them.  I then run some for the sanitizer though the beerline to clean it as well.

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Once the keg is sanitized, I transfer the beer to it and label the keg.

 

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I transfer the keg to the keezer and remove the little bit of air at the top by using 30psi CO2 and bleeding the safety valve a little bit.

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Once the beer is cooled down after about 3-4 hours, I will add the CO2 again at 30psi for an hour and then remove it for an hour.  I repeat this process until the required level of carbonation is achieved.

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Battlefield 4 Gameplay

Some battlefield 4 gameplay I collected over the past few months.

My Oktoberfest home-brew recipe using Morgan’s kits

Over the weekend I brewed an “Oktoberfest” beer.  The recipe I used was adapted from one I found on the Coopers DIY Website.  I mostly used supplies from BrewForAfrica and some lager yeast from Beerlab.

The kit I used was the Morgan’s Blue mountain Lager kit.

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I also used 200g medium Crystal Malt, 500g Dry Malt Extract (DME) and a packet of Saflager w-34/70 yeast as well as the kit’s yeast.

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I crushed the Crystal malt using a bag and rolling pin and then brought it to the boil slowly using 2L of water.

 

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While waiting for the malt to boil, I re-hidrated the 2 packets of yeast using 250ml tepid water and cover with some plastic wrap.

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The 500g dry malt was added to my fermenter.

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I strained the malt into the fermenter and mixed it good to make sure there are no lumps.

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I then added the contents of the kit and topped up the fermenter with cold water to the 20L mark.  I then added the yeast mixed and stirred for about 20 seconds.

I then took a sample for my gravity reading. img_0526

This batch will be in the fermenter for between 2 and 3 weeks before begging it.

Click here for: Kegging and carbonating the Oktoberfest lager

Homebrew supplies in South Africa for extract brewing

Being in Bloemfontein, I need to buy homebrew equipment and supplies from various shops in Cape Town, Durban and Gauteng as there is currently no physical shop here.   Luckily I’ve found some great shops online that ships to Bloemfontein with great service and products.  Here’s a list of shops that I use.  If you know of any others – please feel free to comment.

General equipment and supplies:

I started with a Coopers DIY Kit bought from BeerBros (http://beerbros.co.za/).  The Coopers Kit is a good start as it includes PET bottles.  BeerBros also stock various supplies and equipment as well as Coopers DIY beer Kits.

I recently discovered Brew for Africa (http://www.brewforafrica.co.za/) and they are stockist (among other supplies) of the Morgan’s Beer kits.  I’ve made a few beers from these kits and their quality is excellent.  Their prices is also some of the most competitive around.  They also stock Apple Cider kits that is easy to use and taste really great.

Beerlab (http://www.beerlab.co.za/) is another supplier I use and they also have various beer product to choose from.

Kegging:

To built my keezer, I used supplies from Keg Solutions (http://kegsolutions.co.za/) and Draught Craft (http://draughtcraft.co.za/).  Draught Craft were the only supplier I could find that was able to ship a CO2 canister to me for carbonation and dispensing.

There are loads of other suppliers out there, so please drop me a line if you have a favorite.

 

Building my own keezer

After bottling about 5 batches of beer I decided to rather go with kegging my beer.  To do that, I built a 4 tap keezer for my home.

The supplies for this can be challenging to source in South Africa, but I got mine from http://kegsolutions.co.za/ and http://draughtcraft.co.za/accessories/

I received great service and advice from both sites.